If you're tired of the same old vegetable side dishes, here's a recipe that promotes the lowly red cabbage from side dish to protein partner. All you have to do is cook it up sweet and sour and — voila! — your side dish is now ready to walk down the aisle arm in arm with pork in any form: chops, smoked chops, roast, ham, Canadian bacon, kielbasa, Italian sausages. Really, there's nothing required — no sauces, no extras — other than cooking the pork and lowering it onto the cabbage. What makes this dish such a good partner for pork? Its sourness cuts right through the meat's natural fattiness.
Consisting of just six ingredients, this recipe is a snap to make — and the balance of sweet and sour is up to you. My sourpuss family isn't a fan of sugar in savory dishes, so I added just a single tablespoon of brown sugar to the cabbage. But if the dish then strikes you as too tart, by all means add a second tablespoon or even a tad more.
And by the way, combining red cabbage with an acid — balsamic vinegar, in this case — turns its color from dull blue-ish red to jewel-like pink. All of a sudden, this veggie is scoring an A-plus in visuals — a welcome bonus even if it's not a very cabbage-y thing to do.
Finally, sweet and sour cabbage can be made a few days ahead and is equally good served hot or cold. In other words, it's not just a wintertime food. Try it in the summer as a tangy alternative to coleslaw. Grilled hot dogs topped with sweet and sour cabbage anyone?
Sweet and Sour Cabbage
Start to finish: 1 hour (25 active)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar (light or dark), or to taste
4 cups shredded red cabbage
One 14.5-ounce can chopped tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
In a large skillet cook the garlic in the oil over medium heat, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the vinegar and sugar and cook, stirring until the sugar is melted. Add the cabbage, tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover tightly and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is very tender, about 30 minutes. If there is still a lot of liquid in the pan, increase the heat to medium-high and simmer, uncovered, until most of the liquid is reduced. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Nutritional information per serving: 130 calories; 48 calories from fat; 5 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 364 mg sodium; 17 g carbohydrates; 3 g fiber; 13 g sugar; 2 g protein.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton is host of public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals." She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows including "Cooking Live." Her latest cookbook is "HomeCooking 101."